TCWT: From Classical to Alternative – What Music Fuels Me?

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Since I’ve never been late for a Teens Can Write, Too! post (though, I am sad to mar my record), I think we can let me off that I’m a day late on the schedule. And I’ll see what I can do with my busy bee status. And the irony is that this is one of my favourite prompts. I love the idea of links because music and writing. February’s blog chain prompt is “How does music relate to your writing?”

And, actually, the straight answer to that is extremely. Right off the bat, music relates so much to my writing, by the sheer fact that I ‘gave up’ writing music and lyrics to write books. Moving from one full-time hobby to another full-time hobby, as it were.

But how does music relate to my writing? As in – how is my writing affected by the types of music I listen to? I may be in the minority by not listening to music (with lyrics) as I write, as that throws me away from my mental prose, and I don’t tend to devise a playlist for my novels as some authors have done.* I don’t really feel that there are songs that completely accomplish what I need for writing scenes, characters, and settings; they are two different mediums, after all. We may be able to paint scene with words and with music, to depict emotions, feelings, and humanity through those, but they cannot be analogous.

Though, instead of a playlist, I think it would be quite fun to compile a hypothetical film soundtrack to a novel. But then, that’s me, and I work via visuals in my mind. To me, most of what I read and write is a film anyway.

Nevertheless, I do use music to help my writing. And that’s in editing. There’s something about having music running in the background that kick-starts my mind into writing and concentrating mode. In fact, I’m currently listening to Silent Movie by Frenchy and the Punk as I write this post. Before then, I’d been feeling in a slump, but now I feel like writing again. Of course, this wouldn’t be a post about music without me including some YouTube! This one’s the fun House of Cards ’cause there isn’t a video for Silent Movie on YouTube.

The thing is I couldn’t tell you what sort of genre of music most helps me edit. There are occasions where my music lingers into the classical – for who can resist at the call of Elgar and Vagner? Something dramatic. It’s likely I’ll be editing the fight and shouty scenes (and any other conflicts). There is nothing quite like the rousing organ and an entire or orchestral set to bring one’s writing and the exact set of what needs to be edited to mind. I don’t really have a favourite classical (as opposed to choral: Bach) composer. Anything than writing inspired goes.

Then you’ve got the atmospheric music. The alternate stuff. The tools of my trade: the steampunk** music.

This collection of steampunk songs that were my first dipping my toe into that region. Through them, I found Steam Powered Giraffe, fell in love, recovered from a broken mind, found myself, and, uh, fell in love.

It’s a long story.

There are a lot of good songs missing from this playlist, of course, but it has the ‘hits’ of the bigger bands (most of them US bands). And the original version of SPG’s Brass Goggles with soprano Upgrade. Abney Park are worth a further check out if you like the punk and heavier side of steampunk music. I have the pleasure of seeing them live next term.

**I am aware not every writer on the chain will know Steampunk, the alternative-history sub of SFF, but it wouldn’t be for me to explain it here. I’ve spoken about it before (I even have a category now!) and quoted various figures. Those of you who are Steampunks, do tell, so we can flail together.

*Except for Of Jackets and Phones, the playlist of which I created for its fifth birthday, and is embedded below.

In summary:

I don’t write to music, but I do edit to it, particularly if it’s something atmospheric like steampunk. I don’t have a favourite genre of music to do writing stuff to, and have been known to play from my speakers the craziness of alternative music, the grace of classical and jazz, and the typicalities of mainstream music.

This is such an interesting topic. It appeals to my Psychology degree, in that we can see through observation the types of behavioural and emotional changes that occur when listening to music, writing inspiration and progress (for me) being one of those behaviours. There have indeed been studies on the possible correlations between music and mood, not to mention that even listening to music can release endorphins (one of the ‘happy drugs’ or small-molecule neurotransmitters in our brains).

If you’re not a part of the blog chain, I’d say you should still read through the other days and see what other participants have said.

6thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/ and http://vergeofexisting.wordpress.com/

7thhttp://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

9thhttp://www.freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/

10thhttps://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

11thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/ andhttp://www.pamelanicolewrites.com/

12thhttp://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/

13thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/ andhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

14thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

15thhttp://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/ andhttp://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

16thhttp://theedfiles.blogspot.com/ andhttp://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/

17thhttp://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/ andhttp://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

18thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/ and http://from-stacy.blogspot.com/

19thhttp://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

20thhttps://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

21sthttps://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/ andhttp://arielkalati.blogspot.com/

22ndhttp://loonyliterate.com/ andhttps://www.mirrormadeofwords.wordpress.com/

23rdhttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

24thhttp://themagicviolinist.blogspot.com/ andhttp://allisonthewriter.wordpress.com/

25thhttps://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/ <<you were here…yesterday>>

26thhttp://awritersfaith.blogspot.com/ andhttp://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/ andhttp://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

28th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

Fall 1st Page Critique Blog Hop

(Or ‘autumn’, if we’re going by UK English ;))

The wonderful Michelle Hauck has kindly organised a 1st page critique blog hop, where we get to critique the five blog entries below and ours in the linky on her page. It’s open to all fiction writers, regardless of genre or age category.

Here’s mine, taken from Of Jackets and Phones. Because, why not? Paying forward critiques are awesome. Of course, if you want to critique and you’re not part of the hop, do so anyway. 😉 Updated, as of 12/11/14

YA Murder Mystery

A police car blocked the main road into my school’s burnt umber brick and whitewashed doors. I raised an eyebrow at it, nibbled a nail, and tripped out of the school minibus.

For April, the spring air rose way too crisply and held grass thick with swords of dew, and I struggled with the starched collar of my uniform as moisture crept up my arms and into that annoying air pocket between jumper and shirt. I loosened my tie and shook the wrinkles from my skirt.

“Agnetha! Come on.”

I jolted. Whilst I preferred Vera not laughing at me, I winced at her whining tone. Like I cared if we were late. First lesson on Fridays was Spanish, and I was already failing.

I walked to where she stood and rested a hand on one of her wrists with a nod towards the main entrance.

“Look.”

As she froze to follow my now-absent gaze, I wandered ahead and kicked at the flowerbed along the front lawn path. I’d have dived into the mushrooms and roses there instead of bumbling my way to class. I snapped off one pink-faced fool and tossed it into the mud, and then lifted a mushroom, shifting earth and shoe-dirt and wilderness as I tucked the fungus behind my ear.

A hand on my shoulder, and Vera had caught up. She skipped past me, bubbling with incessant words. “What’s up with the police car?”

“You think I know?” I eyed the blue, yellow and white chequers. Police cars had a weird kind of beauty.

An idea of St. Christopher's school exterior; St. Edmund's School, Summertown

Characters and Their Surprising Attributes

Sometimes characters traits appear random, especially from a retrospective point of view. Rion has one arm. Agnetha is claustrophobic. Charles is not as much a bachelor as the term suggests…

I swear I didn’t plan those things. Right now, as I edit, they are known and integral attributes of the characters, but I suspect that to begin with I had a conscious point in giving my character them. Though Rion’s arm is mentioned, and Agnetha’s claustrophobia makes her logical mind a mess of emotion, neither of these things are vital to the plot. They just happen to be those decorations and side-effects that come with having a three-dimensional character (I hope *crosses fingers*).

The thing is, I never intended for my characters to turn out that way.

I mean, sometimes those points arrive more due to closing one’s eyes to the characters beforehand. In my recent (ie. this year) rewrite of OJAP, I realised that both the DCI and Agnetha’s school-friend Vera are people of colour. In fact, Vera is gorgeous:

On the other hand, the point I’m raising today is when one knows there might have been a reason at the very beginning of a story conception for certain characters with certain features, but it’s been lost to the canon and myth. Isn’t that a fun phrase to think of? “lost to canon” *dreams*

Looking around the internet, you’ll find various posts and articles about character traits – some focusing on big commercial and popular fiction, eg. Disney and green-eyed villains; others with a view to the more subtle references that less-well-known authors make.  Sometimes we writers do that, slipping in references, ‘Easter eggs’ for readers to squee at. I’m not going to elaborate on that, since many others already have.

As a writer, though, I do wonder where some of those “lost to canon” ideas stem from. If they’re not vital to a plot, what is the point in having them in the first place? To develop a character. In the same way that we ask ourselves the silly questions: “what would your character have for breakfast?” In the same way that I know Agnetha “hates cheese and likes puzzles”, a facetious homage to me, though one that started as a joke and stuck. In the same way, Cait at NotebookSisters runs the monthly Beautiful People link-up to let us delve beyond what is needed for the people in our fiction.

Just as with worldbuilding, characters are icebergs. Luckily, they’re not going to hit you in the face with their surprises–uhh, don’t hold me to that. Mostly not. Often sometimes. Yes. Let’s just say that if a character reveals something to you whilst you are writing:

a) you’re not paying enough attention to them in the first place (see my point above about missing the fact my characters were better as POCs).

b) your writing’s going to be better off for it.

and c) you’re probably going to realise that the character was meant to be that way in the first place. Hence my first protestation that the character-icebergs you hit are very less likely to dent your story than fantasy-world-icebergs.

One’d think that once one comes up with these specific traits, assigns them and folds them into a character’s life, that’s the end of it. Well, maybe so – but I was hit by the thought that I have traits that I love the characters for, but never consciously assigned to them.

How does that crazy thing happen? I guess characters pick up these things and hit the ground running with them.

So, maybe, despite what I’ve said, it’s a combination of the writer understanding that something extra should be added to the character and the character bringing surprise to the world themselves.

Nevertheless, even if you never include more than a glimmering shadow of these traits, every writer should attack their first drafts with a green pen for character enhancement. Give them something quirky, regardless of the setting. Jess and Laurie are in the uni caving society. Aidelle makes tomato soup with sharp herbs and spices. Christophe reads poetry in his spare time. And maybe one day, you’ll look back at your work and forget, in but a blink, that these characters never had those traits, and they’ll become part of their original shapes.

Okay?

I have had that meme in my head these last few days.

What about you? Have you ever written character traits and then come back to them with no idea of their origins?

7 Quick Takes About The Usual, The Unusual and The Moving Back

Join us over at ConversionDiary as we recap our weeks.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about cool vintage books, a radio studio in my home, and the only five things that really matter when you host a party

~1~

Hullo. I travel back to uni tomorrow *sad face* So I expect the posting to become more sporadic again as I try and find my feet and help out with the freshers. On the other hand, that means I’ll have more to talk about every week! 😛

~2~

On the blog this week, I mainly talked about my trip to Lincoln and the annual Steampunk convivial held there. And it was amazing! Although I didn’t make as many of the panels, talks and workshops as I would’ve liked, and I didn’t buy any of the things I set out to, it was great to experience the British side of Steampunk lifestyle, which is, sadly, not talked about or videoed as much as US meets. We have more conventions in the UK than first appears, so it seems.

~3~

I finished a mystery book I’ve been reading – will get at least a mini review to the blog soon. I’m also munching my way through the biographical book about Agatha Christie, which is quite easy reading, but still detailed. I’m currently on the section about Poirot.

Poirot x2

Poirot x2

~4~

Music-wise, I’ve been learning to play some jazz pieces (as well as upping the tempo of I’ll Rust With You, which I am enjoying so much that I’m no longer following the twins strumming patterns and melody line, respectively) for the big Swing event we’ve got on the second week of October. Peggy Lee’s Fever is fun to play because of the jazz strumming patterns:

~5~

I’m CP for four-ish writers at the moment. Unusually, I managed to get some non-YA CPs, so, though all of stories I’m reading at the moment are fantasy, they are a variety of sub-genres, from steampunk NA retelling to time-travel to epic fantasies. Cool stuff.

On the other hand, with everything going on, I’ve not had so much time for editing. I tried to finish the rewrites of the first Craig house scenes, and I think I am almost satisfied with the details I’ve removed from that scene. As those things are important (to me), I hope to get the information squeezed into later chapters. I’ve also been thinking more about the use of cipher across the trilogy, and its fingertips in OJAP.

~6~

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I’ve been thinking about the companion story to Horology, and whilst I want it to exist, I have my reservations. There is, for starters, the fact that having it set in Egypt isn’t anything new, and this could be/is problematic in terms of plot. Sure, Amelia and Cathy’s world has The Passing of spectres, but what else can I add that’s not your stereotypical “let’s dig up this pyramid/dune; oh, look, weird artefact; oh, look, dead body…”?

The simple answer is “don’t write an excavation book”, but if I ever write a solo Amelia book, I intend to have her in old Dubai, which, according to the history I read when I was there, used to be all sand. She may be a cartographer, but Amelia learnt a lot living in Italy.

At the Lincoln writing workshop, the general reaction I got when I read it out was that the setting was very clear, the MC was more upper-class (good, I think), and it reminded people of the 30s. I guess that’s good. However – I hadn’t planned to write dieselpunk…even though the airship is powered by paraffin. I wanted an almost smoggy chemical to be polluting the air from the ‘ship, but I hardly had access to the internet to Google an elaborate-named simple compound.

Also: Mummy on the Orient Express. I think we’re going to see Egypt and archaeological stories come back into fashion soon.

Hence, I’ve planned it as a novella. I’ll aim for 40,000, but I believe that’s the upper boundary, and I’d be happy with 25 or 30,000.

~7~

This is the beginning as it stands so far. Actually, for me, I’m pretty proud of this beginning. It has setting, genre and conflict, and the writing is pretty spiffing in any case.

Amelia stared at the academic as he scrubbed sand from his duffel coat. The skyship had barely left a trail of ash and paraffin across the sky, and he was already complaining.

“Damn scarab bites. Almost as bad as horse-flies.”

Amelia straightened her under-corset and cleared her throat. She was already getting the feeling that Dr. Rathburne would be the one man here to rattle her nerves.

“Welcome to Egypt, Dr. Colonel Reynold and my team are arranging the newest artefacts in tent F.”

Your team?”

Ah. Only a matter of time.

Amelia caught the end of her blonde plait as it swung towards her face, and retied it with a tough tug.

“Reynold didn’t tell you? I’m the one leading the expedition. After Italy, that’s the least I can do, don’t you suppose?”

The doctor of Archaeology – the Institute of London’s finest, apparently, and she should know – grunted. He shuffled his satchel over one shoulder, avoiding her eyes with flail, and set off across that ‘damn sand’.

Personally, Amelia liked it.

Thoughts on the beginning? I’m still not sure what I think of the changes, especially in Amelia’s line. It’s less telling, but… Also, I have a friend whose allergic to horse-fly bites. They are cruel.

7 Quick Takes About Music and Writing and a Little Bit of Costuming

Regulars know the Friday drill. Join us at ConversionDiary  as we connect about our weeks.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about dog whispering fails, a hilarious interview moment, and why my radio show will have the best intro music ever

~1~

It feels like it’s been a busy week for me – back and forth even when never moving. Now September is here, I’ve started preparing my body, soul and mind for moving back to Reading. Next week will be the start of the physical preparations…packing. I’d love to wait until after Lincoln, but that would give me five days (actually, that’s totally acceptable).

~2~

Speaking of which…my costume is almost finished, and I’m getting excited. Here’s a snippet I took to test out the use of petticoats under the floor-length dress. Technically, my petticoats are 50s and half-length, but if I wear them at that very line of my hips, they provide some necessary frame on full-length. Yay for petticoats.

And messing about with photo editor...

And messing about with photo editor…

~3~

We’re looking after two cats at the moment, a grey tabby and a black-and-white bundle. Not to mention little neighbourhood Mew (at least, that’s what we’re calling the feisty little girl) who, whilst at odds with the two we’re looking after, is still content to try and steal their food by forcing entry into our house with her cuteness. It’s not my fault I’m a weak soul when it comes to felines!

The three of them are certainly a handful, though! I’d forgotten the thrill of cats, chasing, struggling, looking all big-eyed when they don’t want to eat the food we’ve provided. 😛

ALexB_Mew

~4~

Not only is this 6-minute (SPG) song awesome, and one that definitely grew on me, and it always From the (am I allowed to say iconic?) album The 2 Cent Show, it’s one of their more acoustic-sounding pieces.

~5~

My music… I was supposed to be practising a few of the songs for choir in my privacy today, but I have misplaced—

Literally as I was writing that, I realised that I’ve been looking in the wrong email address for the classical repertoire. Right, I’ll be practising that tomorrow then. The evening is for writing exclusively.

I’ll hopefully keep updated on this one. This is one of the things I’m looking forward to on my return.

~6~

On the other hand, I’m definitely getting back into the swing of being a guitarist. Maybe one post I’ll write about the year’s hiatus I took and how it helped me. Shimmer is easier to use than my acoustic, Ruby – electrics have lighter strings, and I’m finding it much easier to barre and run the fret. Certainly, useful for songs like Brass Goggles. Not so useful for today’s work, I’ll Rust With You, but that song’s pretty groovy anyway 😉 The most difficult part is probably singing the melody as I find the strumming patterns

~7~

Editing. I got through chapter 14, one of the more…difficult chapters of OJAP, mainly because of it’s compounding of all Agnetha’s thought-trails in the novel – also, as I discovered, it is 4000 words of chatter and contemplation, two phone calls, Agnetha lying on the floor crying and some mother-daughter dissonance. Whilst these are totally acceptable themes to have in the novel, I’m worried about this chapter for its interesting-ness. I mean, if I’m getting bored editing… #nothappy appropriate here.

Beta/CP Match-Up

To cap off the summer long Ready. Set. Write! initiative, hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk, a mixer for potential critique partners and beta readers is being held. Today we’ve been invited to talk about our WIP and MSs, so without further ado…

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OF JACKETS AND PHONES

Genre: YA Mystery (contemporary)

Approx. wordcount: 55,000 words

Standalone or series? First of a trilogy. Second book – first draft written; third book – planned, a few chapters written, on hold.

Ready for CPs? On fifth draft editing. Most chapters ready now, but might rewrite a couple of the chapters, so sometimes chapters might not be insta-available.

Small house like Agnetha's

Betas or CPs? Primarily beta(s), as I won’t be able to critique once the academic term starts (Oct), but I’m happy to have a CP or two if they don’t mind intermittent critiques/don’t need

Warnings? Mentions of drug use, but no explicit use in scenes. Murder, obviously, but again no explicit description or gruesome blood and guts stuff.

Elevator pitch: 14-year-old Agnetha fights the police to bring her favourite teacher’s murderer to justice – for better or worse, even when she and the greatest link to the truth are the next targets on the shadowy killer’s list.

body outline

Excerpt

“I do remember talking. But that feeling!”

I glanced at Ms. Peterson. She blinked, wincing as she rubbed a raw temple. It must’ve collided with the corner of the table, and a trail of blood began snaking its way down the side of her thin face. Her speech settled to a rough breath, exhaled in a frustrated puff.

“It’s no use,” she remarked. “I can’t remember a word after that. Fuzziness.”

I nodded to her with a sigh. In a half-twist, I circled around, surveying the room: the glass and the ceramic blown apart, scattering their guts against the opposite wall, and the floor was a bed of plaster. Dishwasher-style disturbed. Dishevelled. Disgusting.

At least three walls and a door hung on their hinges. I shoved the remains of the table against the innermost wall, and, ignoring a bright bruise on my arm, pushed through the stray books.

skull bookcase

I hope this has at least piqued your interest. I am totally up to trading first chapters only to get a feel for each other’s style and voice. (I can’t think of anything else relevant right now…)

Ready. Set. Write! Final Update

I can’t believe it’s the last of these already. It’s been two and a half months, but the time has whizzed by – ten/eleven weeks and all. I may not have managed to leave an update every week, but I’m going to miss talking about my writing on Mondays!

Last week’s goals

Edit OJAP. Editing in progress.

Write more of fantasy-horror short story. Working on it. I’ve so far 1800 of about 7000, but I’m not finding much energy to actually write, preferring to edit and all it entails. I’m really into OJAP and getting a more final edit in place.

A word/phrase that sums up what I revised:

Insertion. A lot of this week’s editing has been either directly chapter-based for my CP, or taking new paragraphs of important/interesting information and finding where they ought to fit in amongst the old prose.

Challenges I’ve faced this week:

In parts of my mind, I can hear the voice of doubt arguing that pieces I’m editing will be removed, chopped and wiped out later anyway. The problem with following a Christie-esque reveal of clues (a piece by piece) is that my characters have a lot of exposition through dialogue and I’m so worried that the pacing is off.

Something I love about my WIP:

The converse of the challenges: I love some of the new dialogue I’ve slipped in because it works. I need to organise the Pinterest board because I could grab some cool scenes to display there.

An idea of St. Christopher's school exterior; St. Edmund's School, Summertown

Overall goals:

Complete my short story/novella <Unnamed Steampunk>. Also, come up with a neat name for it. I finished The Incidents at Cavendish Mechanics at 13138 words, but may be turning it into a full novella (30-40K) when I have the chance, since the short story category frustrates me with what I feel is a lack of a full plot and character arc.

Finish reading over the summer at least three of the books I’ve started reading this year. I finished Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men, Soulless, Stardust, The Iron Wyrm Affair, and novella Encante, as well as starting tons more. So, yeah, I count that as complete.

Complete another round of tightening of Fantasy Romance WTCB. Yeah? I did a round of revisions and I’m putting it in cold storage for now. I just…bleh.

Make progress rewriting YA contemporary mystery, Of Jackets and Phones, to make it Beta/CP-ready. Yes. In progress, but making greater leeway than in term-time and weekly sending chapters to one CP. Soon, I intend to have another.

Complete July’s CampNaNo with the first draft of ‘H’ and at least start NA contemporary uni romance, Under the Carrington. Horology’s finished at 73K; UTC has about 5K at the moment, but that’s good after saying I wasn’t going to be writing more of it, and still I do.

So, pretty successful all in all, but with still more to be done. How has your writing summer?